Investors often wonder if they should trust their money to an experienced fund manager, or an upstart who might have a fresh approach. An article in The Wall Street Journal posits that research shows a more seasoned manager is the better bet if you want a fund that tracks an index better and provides posttax returns. But if you’re looking for large bets and home runs, a short-tenure manager might be the better route.
In examining the relationship between fund-manager tenure and performance, the average long-tenure manager underperformed the average short-tenure manager by 0.03% per year, on a pretax basis. But when the posttax results were examined, the result flipped: long-tenure managers outperformed short-tenure managers by 0.14%/year.
Why this reversal? the article asks. The answer lies in the fact that short-tenure managers trade much more often than long-tenure managers, and the latter has an asset turnover ratio of 54.89% as opposed to the former with a ratio of 84.90%. More trading equals a larger tax bill at the end of the day for investors.
And looking at the results for large-cap stock managers, annual returns hit 13.22% for long-tenure managers and 14.66% for short-tenure, meaning you have a better chance of hitting a home run with a short-tenure manager—but also greater risk of striking out. These results persist across all the asset classes the article investigated.
As for the relationship between fees and performance, the more a manager charges you in fees, the worse your performance will be, on average—regardless of whether they are experienced or an upstart. The key takeaway from this research, the article contends, is that if you’re going to hold mutual funds with a short-tenure manager, you may be better off to hold them in tax-advantaged accounts like an IRA or 401k, or risk a dent in your returns when the tax bill comes due.